Fred Smith’s leadership as chairman of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation left a legacy of philanthropy at UAMS matched only by a handful of other generous donors.
The foundation is a national philanthropic organization founded in 1954 by the late media entrepreneur for whom it is named. Headquartered in Las Vegas, Nevada, it has committed more than $99 million to UAMS, most of it to the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging.
Smith in 1992 became chairman of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation Board of Trustees, at the time one of the largest private foundations in the nation. He passed away April 29 after a long illness. He was 84.
“It’s clear that community service was a hallmark of Fred W. Smith’s life and career, with his tenure leading the Reynolds Foundation offering countless examples of support for projects that helped so many people — including UAMS and our geriatrics programs,” said Interim Chancellor Stephanie Gardner, Pharm.D., Ed.D. “We are eternally grateful for his support of our health care and health improvement mission in Arkansas through the years and proud to have his name on our Fred W. Smith Conference Center, a showcase venue that has hosted national seminars, conferences and educational symposiums since it opened in 2005.”
In 1997, the Reynolds Foundation was present at the Institute on Aging’s creation when it awarded a $28.8 million grant to the university: $10.5 million to establish a Department of Geriatrics in the College of Medicine and $18.3 million to construct a building to be the institute’s new home.
By September 2000, UAMS was ready to dedicate the four-story building (originally called the Reynolds Center on Aging) containing educational space on the first floor, clinical space on the second floor, and clinical research and basic science on the third and fourth floors, respectively.
The foundation under Fred Smith continued to support the Reynolds Institute and its programs. Smith said in 2005 “that one of the intents of the Reynolds Foundation was that its grants and gifts would be leveraged by others to do more good.” It worked.
In 2005, the Walker Family Memory Research Center was opened at the Institute on Aging with a $5 million grant from the Willard and Pat Walker Charitable Foundation. Jane and Frank Lyon in 2007 gave $2.5 million for the Thomas and Lyon Longevity Clinic there.
If the positive impact of Smith’s leadership of the Reynolds Foundation wasn’t already apparent, then UAMS made it clear to everyone during a ceremony in April 2005.
At that ceremony, Gov. Mike Huckabee, UAMS Chancellor I. Dodd Wilson and Arkansas business icon Jack Stephens helped dedicate a new $4 million, conference center in honor of Fred Smith. The governor gave credit to Smith and the foundation for making the investments that have benefitted so many.
Since then, the 335-seat auditorium in the Fred Smith Conference Center along with the James H. Hamlen II Boardroom on the 12thfloor of the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute have allowed the university to host national seminars, conferences and educational symposiums along with other events and meetings.
The Reynolds Foundation in June 2009 announced another generous gift: $33.4 million in grants to the Reynolds Institute to add four floors on top of the existing four. Additional grant funds from the Reynolds Foundation enabled the replication of the Schmieding Home Caregiver Training Program, developed in the Schmieding Center for Senior Health and Education in Springdale, to be offered in UAMS regional Centers on Aging in Jonesboro, Pine Bluff, Texarkana, El Dorado, Fort Smith, Pine Bluff, Texarkana and West Memphis.
The Schmieding Home Caregiver Training Program provides education and skills training to family members and future professional caregivers of older adults living in their homes, thus allowing older adults to have the choice to stay in their homes. The foundation in 2015 gave $7.9 million to the Schmieding program to support operations for five years at its training sites.
As an expression of appreciation for his generous support, Smith in 2011 received from UAMS an Honorary Doctorate of Medical Arts and Humane Letters during the university’s annual commencement ceremony.
“Because of Fred Smith’s visionary and futuristic insight, the Reynolds Institute at UAMS for 20 years has provided care, educated health care professionals and conducted the research for developing new treatments and cures, and will continue to lead in these efforts,” said Jeanne Wei, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Reynolds Institute.
As it has been long planned, the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation has recently ceased operation, marking the end of decades of visionary and transformative philanthropy to UAMS, other institutions and projects of benefit to the public. Fred Smith played a key role in leading the foundation and its giving.
Smith, who was born in Arkoma, Oklahoma, attended college in Fort Smith, and started his career in communications in 1951 as an advertising salesman for the Southwest Times-Record in Fort Smith, one of many newspapers owned by the late Donald W. Reynolds. He served in several managerial roles within Reynolds’ Donrey Media Group, and was named executive vice president in 1973, and president and chief operating officer in 1987.
“Arkansas is in a better position than almost any other state in the nation to meet and embrace health care challenges and opportunities presented by the expanding number of seniors. We are here to help and care for the mature adult of today and tomorrow, to age well, live well, and to keep functioning at the highest level, for as long as possible,” Wei said.